Farnham or Guildford?

(37 Posts)
Tabya876 Tue 30-Oct-12 06:36:33

A dilemma!

I am starting a new job in Farnham next week but my family, wife plus ds (15 months) and dd (3 and a half) are up North. We have a number of challenges:

In order to get our daughter into a state school next September we need to be residing in the catchment area by 15th January the latest. That means relocating with no guarantee that we would get our dd into the school of our choice. At present she is in a ok prep school that she loves although we have concerns abouther not being challenged there, it would be unattractive to take her out of that school and move to a new area only for her to sit at home for almost a year because the local nurseries are full at this time of year.

The 2 state schools we are considering are South Farnham in Lower Bourne and Holy Trinity Pewley Down in Guildford. Both schools admit at 4+. Local nurseries are full around Bourne and my wife does not drive so accessing other nurseries further away are inaccessible. We are still looking at options in Guildford but the situation appears similar.

Our dd is a very sociable and confident child that loves learning thus, we want a schol that stimulates and challenges her whilst ensuring that she is nurtured in a friendly way that builds upon her bubbly personality and happiness. We looked at Tormead but felt something was missing, although we cannot put our finger on what. Totally love South Farnham and Guildford High School. Our dd is going for the entry assessment at the latter next week. I have spoken with the head master at HTPD and was thoroughly impressed with his thinking.

In order of preference we love GHS and South Farnham almost equally. SF has advantages in that both our children could attend the school and of course, its closer to my new ofice and we would save money on fees. Disadvantages of SF include cost of moving to the area (renting rates are amazing) until we can find a house to buy. Additionally, the area is remote given my wife is not yet driving.

SF is an all girls school which is preferable and it's located in Guildford which is better for access to shops and services given that my wife is not yet driving. Disadvantages include cost and children having to attend different schools. HTPD is our fallback position.

Anyone in the same/ similar situation? Any thoughts from other parents please? Just for info, we looked at Rydes Hill which is really nice.

BlueyDragon Tue 30-Oct-12 06:43:54

I'm a bit confused. If your wife isn't driving, and your job is in Farnham, how is she planning on doing a school run into Guildford from Farnham?

Rental rates/house prices are astronomical anywhere near good state schools in Surrey (limit of my experience).

BlueyDragon Tue 30-Oct-12 06:49:55

St Catherine's comes up well in league tables and in the local comments I've heard. Also single sex (girls), private and on the edge of Guildford. Tormead and GHS seem to polarise opinions, with those preferring one disliking the other. There is the Royal Grammar School in Guildford for boys, also centrally located. Can't help on Farnham I'm afraid.

The traffic into Guildford at rush hour is really bad - something you might need to consider.

Tabya876 Tue 30-Oct-12 07:04:14

Thanks BlueyDragon. We are considering moving to either Farnham or Guildford. If in Guildford, we would rent something close to whichever schoolour dd would attend. My wife is having lessons currently; we hope that she will pass before we move but of course there are no guarantees so we are considering worst case scenarios.

As our ds is still so young we are unsure what type of school might best suit him. I'd certainly be happy with South Farnham and Rydes Hill. Not sure about Lanesborough as we've not yest visited it.

Iwasagnome Tue 30-Oct-12 09:06:46

take a look at Godalming too perhaps-lots of good schools and not so far to Farnham.
friendly,lots going on for young families.

Lifeisontheup Tue 30-Oct-12 09:21:49

My DD went to Rydes Hill and loved it. It's a warm and friendly school with a good family atmosphere.

Tabya876 Tue 30-Oct-12 09:28:20

Thanks guys.

We will look at Godalming; we certainly like Rydes Hill for the reasons you outlined Lifeisontheup. Was a tad concerned about it being non-selctective but that is because the prep-school she is in has failed to add anything discernible to what she knew before she joined.

Teacher told us it benefited other girls in the class to have her there. I am proud of her for that but also want some effort made at helping her avoid frustration through lack of encouragement/ development. Unfortunately, I know first-hand what that feels like.

mummytime Tue 30-Oct-12 09:38:27

Girls go onto GHS from both SF and HTPD. There are several other good schools in Guildford, and HTPD take an extra 30 pupils in year 3 (St Nicholas is another infants worth looking at). If you don't move your family by January there is still agood chance that you might get a place from the waiting list in March; people do move or apply as a back up to private schools.
If your wife doesn't drive (or even if she did given Guildford traffic) the journey to Rydes Hill, unless you live in the area could be tricky.

Tabya876 Tue 30-Oct-12 10:22:44

Thanks mummytime Not sure about HTPD's waiting list but I think there would be Zero chance of getting through on a waiting list for SF unfortunately. It's a shame that we have to be in situ to make an application with no guarantees but that's the way of things.

Whichever school we opt for, we would seek to rent close to for at least 12 months. This will enabale us to elucidate our needs fully prior to purchasing.

mummytime Tue 30-Oct-12 11:30:34

I have known people withdraw their children from SF, it might not be many, but there is never zero chance. But if you think it is that unlikely then maybe Guildford would be a better option (I don't know the other Farnham schools that well).

Jigsawmadness Tue 30-Oct-12 12:29:45

It sounds to me that your decision should be led by whether or not your DD gets into GHS. If she does, then Guildford makes more sense and there are some nice residential areas within walking distance to GHS where you could rent. However, I was brought up in Farnham and went to South Farnham (before it was as good as it is now) and think it is a lovely place to grow up and go to school. I agree though that it's unlikely you would get a place at South Farnham unless you live on the doorstep by the January deadline.

My DD is also sitting for the assessment at GHS next week, but I'm not holding out much hope she'll get in as I'm sure she'll throw a tantrum and won't show the best of herself! We also liked Tormead so are trying for that as well. Best of luck for your DD and with whatever you decide.

Tabya876 Tue 30-Oct-12 13:51:36

Of course you are quite right mummytime - there is never a zero chance. I have also just read that some do withdraw their children from SF. I really love the atmosphere, the passion/ belief of the teachers, politeness of the children we met along the corridors and facilities.

I concur Jigsawmadness; Guildford is superb - so much available in one place that is not too far from affordable residential locations. Fantastic that our DDs are sitting the assessments at the same round. Our daughter is chatty, bubbly and confident on normal occasions but does tend to play shy on initial meetings, so we are also concerned that she will not reveal her best. Particularly if she is tired. If she is having a tantrum, we would probaly not even attend smile I have to assume that we are all in the same boat.

I liked Tormed - the head was a nice lady and the kids that escorted us around during the tour were highly impressive. Not sure about something though although we cannot quite put a finger to it.

It would be nice to say hello while we are there. We are travelling down on the Thursday and aim to be in the hotel by midday. We will then be driving home on the Saturday evening. If ok with you I will send you a private message.

Tabya876 Tue 30-Oct-12 14:06:41

I am unable to send you a message Jigsawmadness. I'm uncertain why.

Lifeisontheup Tue 30-Oct-12 14:21:43

I liked the non-selective part as DD joined at three and I know she would not have cooperated in an assessment at that age. She got into her preferred senior school (plus the others she went for) without any problem at eleven.
They didn't allow her to 'coast' in any way.

Pagwatch Tue 30-Oct-12 14:29:12

The schools are not stupid. Assessment testing allows for a child being tired or 'not performing' on the day.

The reality is though that the schools have a huge swathe of applicants and ultimately can just pick the ones they want.

Pagwatch Tue 30-Oct-12 14:35:41

GHS and Tormead are both very good. At 18 the girls are pretty indistinguishable. Tormead used to have the plucky runner up feel and GHS seems a bit pleased with itself but that is diminishing.
I think parents often prefer GHS. It has more of a swagger. Tormead is more pastoral. It depends what matters to you and your child really

Jigsawmadness Tue 30-Oct-12 14:37:42

Hi Tabya876 - don't worry you did send manage to send me a message. I will respond in detail a little later but have to go collect DD1 from pre-school now.

Ughfootballseason Tue 30-Oct-12 14:53:49

I'm putting dd in for the Tormead assessments this year because it seemed 'cosy' and still manages to get the results. We have also looked at Rydes Hill and, from my point of view as a teacher, it seems more academic in spite of it not being selective.

I could be completely wrong though. It's difficult to make an accurate assessment until you really know a school well.

Tabya876 Tue 30-Oct-12 15:00:25

Thanks Lifeisonthe up. Pagwatch, I totally agree that schools can pick and choose - it was mentioned to me that 'cohort fit' is important. Certainly, during my tour at Tormead it was suggested that they cater well to developing individual talent, no matter where it may lay. I thought Tormead the more formal of the 2 schools. Not necessarily a bad thing, just a personal observation.

There was something about being in the R class at GHS we liked. Perhaps it was being able to envisage our DD with the group of children as they played/ learned. We thought she would fit in perfectly, even being 1 year younger - her best friend is 9 years old.

Tabya876 Tue 30-Oct-12 15:02:13

Hi Ughfootballseason, Rydes Hill was very impressive indeed.

Issy Tue 30-Oct-12 15:05:18

I have two DDs, one who's just left Rydes Hill, the other who's still there. Just a quick observation on HT. We've had several children join RH from HT because their parents feel they are not being stretched by the school. The parents always say the same thing: "It's a lovely school, the children are very happy there, but they're not really doing any work." So, if it's important to you that your DD is academically challenged, HT may not be the school for you.

However, I know that children do go on from HT to GHS, Tormead and other selective schools, so there must be something going on there!

Tabya876 Tue 30-Oct-12 15:23:25

Hi Issy. Thanks for that insight. I heard about HT during a tour of SF and through a colleague that has a child there. Both said it is a very good school albeit "different". The Head Master was impressive, enthusiastic and exceptionally helpful during my tc with him.

Ultimately, we want our DD to remain a happy child. She is showing signs of learning easily, confidence, being sociable, outgoing and loving variety. She regressed during the first several months at prep school because they failed to encourage her beyond where she was in favour of 'advancing the class together'. We just want her in an environment that takes time to support those who fall behind and encourages those that can move ahead at a quicker pace.

When I was at school I was often given books to read and sent to the library until the others could catch up. Consequently, I have few pleasant recollections of my time there. We don't want our DD to be in the same position.

Happymum22 Tue 30-Oct-12 17:05:42

Hi there, i can give you info on all the schools mentioned and farnham/guildford. we live in guildford and dds were/are all at guildford high from age 4-18. son was at lanesborough then RGS which is a common route and both fab schools.

In terms of guildford vs farnham depends what you want, later rail links to guildford for schools from farnham are tricky but there are masses that do it everyday from guildford high/tormead/rgs so its not much of an issue. There are around 4-8 in each year of GHS from south farnham, many also go to tormead. Its highly regarded and in many ways such a money saver its worth it.
I personally like the town in farnham although shoppings a bit limited and I like the houses, I just don't like the giant cross roads in between (but thats being picky!)

Guildfords a great town to be in, everythings on your doorstep and links to london are fantastic. Theres a lovely atmosphere.

Guildford high- (As 2 of my DDs are uni/graduate age i see it from an outcome perspective mostly, but youngest DD still there) very well run, gets the best out of girls especially academically, suited some of my dds more than others but they all have thrived there and most of all made incredible friends for life (And this is something i see amongst not just their friendship circles but all GHS girls seem to stick together, be so supportive of each other and have an amazing bond i am always very jealous of as i never had girl friends like that!) all the girls go into a subject or career they are not just directed into but they are passionate about and determined to suceed in. The junior department is different from when DDs were there as new head but the girls are very bright and nurtured as an individual.
Dont worry abiut the test 2 of my DDs were incredibly shy and one insisted on taking her teddy bear and hid behind it! the school arent looking for two classes of chatter box, uber confident girls, they want a good mix and are more looking at the academic level and if they have the basic motor, cognitive and social skills to the right level. I always think its a bit of a luck thing at age 4 and is somewhat just what the parents/nursery happen to have practiced on done before with the child.

HTPD- know very well as live adjacent and DD did some work there. Its a very different school but i think becoming less 'different' as new educational inititives come about and lots more schools are taking a similar approach of lots of topic work. its very big classes and a fair number of special needs children, which it caters for very well. they make learning exciting. DD said it is very different to guildford high though. very inspiring place but quite love hate and works for some kids well but not others. i feel its loosing its spark and touch a little bit.

Tabya876 Tue 30-Oct-12 18:10:07

Thank you for such an informative response Happymum22. Funnily, we also dislike the crossroads in Farnham smile

I'm certainly going to reach out to you for further insight. Seems everything you've said, including the thought on HT aligns with what I've gleaned recently.
Really welcomed your thoughts on GHS. Very encouraging. Thank you gain.

mummytime Tue 30-Oct-12 21:09:37

I think Happymum22 is pretty spot on. I'm not quite sure who they do filter out at GHS at 4, but maybe they just spot very obvious misfits. They are subtly open that if they "make a mistake" they will guide the parents that they have done so, and I have known girls move on to other girls schools. (There are less academic girls schools near Guildford than any mentioned so far.)

HT is still a marmite school, but as it becomes less so over the years so it becomes less extra-ordinary.

SF children who I have known leave have moved on to very different kinds of schooling, because it wasn't right for them.

The new head of Tormead came from St Catz, and seems to be making her own stamp on the place (as all new Heads do).

It is an area blessed by a lot of good schools (especially for girls but improving for boys).

Happymum22 Wed 31-Oct-12 00:20:53

tabya876 glad to have helped, just message me with any questions!

mummytime- yes you are right I think about 1-3 girls leave GHS in year 6 normally. One tends to go to George abbot so i guess financial reasons then one or two to less academic schools. Some seem to think this is GHS being a 'results factory' and not caring but i think it is the opposite, they really consider every girl and if the academic environment is right for them. If my DD wasn't going to thrive at a school and they could see that, I'd want them to tell me and advise me where is best!!

know a fair bit about tormead, the new head is very different from the old and is changing the nature of the school. My guess is she is taking it to be a bit more up-market and improve academics slightly. I think she is trying to make it more of a competitor to guildford high but with a different atmosphere (perhaps more similar to st cats where she came from) and knowing her professional capabilities i think the school will really come up and thrive so its less of a second choice to GHS but a sought after school in its own right.

DD just walked in, she is at uni but home for reading week having left GHS a year and a bit ago. I asked her opinion, she reinforced what I said about the lifelong close friends made there and also said it has an amazing buzzing atmosphere, like a big family with a great sense of belonging and ambition. (Beginning to sound like a school prospectus!)

Best of luck to those with DDs sitting the 4+ soon!

Tabya876 Thu 01-Nov-12 07:57:06

Hi mummy time. I can't imagine how they screen out/ select but it will certainly be based upon subjective parameters. I suspect that perceived cohort synergy will feature to the extent that one girl could have selected one year and perhaps not have gotten in another year.

I'd like my daughter to get in as I truly believe she would thrive in a fast-paced and stimulating environment because she loves learning, asks many many questions and is both happy and confident. Of course I'm currently an outsider looking in. Two of my nieces attend North London Collegiate School and love it there. They think our daughter would also do well in a similar environment. Her current teachers think the same thing so taking all into consideration we can only apply and hope for the best.

I'll go to HT to take a look as I don't know what to think based on so many contrasting comments. Comments re GHS and Rydes Hill appear relatively consistent though.

I agree that boys do appear somewhat undeserved with many suiting more geek inclined boys perhaps. I don't think my son is like that. Both DS and DD angle towards being highly outgoing and socially oriented. Not sure about sports though. Dancing and singing - a huge yes.

mummytime Thu 01-Nov-12 08:14:50

The problem for boys was, but is improving, that once they reached 11/13 apart from RGS there weren't that many options, certainly compared to girls. If you exclude RGS, the options involve travel, boarding, or state, and some of the travel times/distances could be quite far. However some preps are now expanding into 11-16/18 and the Royal school is admitting boys on the Diamond model,which helps. However State school is quite an attractive option too.

Dededum Fri 02-Nov-12 17:36:24

I know about HT, my son has just left. Personally, I am not a fan. But saying that it is not a bad school. Think that they are just disorganised and careless. If you are interested please mail me.

Tabya876 Sun 04-Nov-12 14:17:52

Thanks mummytime. Would have responded earlier had I realised there was a Page 2 to this thread smile

Thanks Dededum. I will send you a PM.

Madasabox Thu 08-Nov-12 16:18:36

My DD is also sitting the assessment for GHS this week Tabya and we are in the catchment for SF. There are a number of good feeder infant schools that feed into SF if you couldnt be in the catchment for SF, although they are all rural so if your wife doesn't drive..... We didnt like HTPD much. The reason we are not going to SF is that we have just put our house on the market this week to move to Guildford to be closer to my husband's job (the other side of Dorking) so if you are looking for somewhere to live ;-)

Tabya876 Fri 09-Nov-12 20:17:58

So, our DD sat the first part of her assessment today. The good news is that she absolutely loved it. The not so good news is that she did what she often does when asked to demonstrate something - deny all knowledge of it smile. Asked to complete a puzzle she tells us she said that she did not know how to. She does puzzles all the time, albeit invariably on the iPad. Hmmmmn. Anyway, that she enjoyed her time at the school today is the most important thing. Part 2 tomorrow. smile

Thanks Madasabox. I've just signed an agreement to rent a property in Lower Bourne. Sorry.

Madasabox Sat 17-Nov-12 08:49:34

Tabya - I was kind of joking :-) If it's any help on the GHS admissions our daughter told us there was no puzzle, she just talked. It is so difficult at this age to get them to expand on what happened. Did your daughter enjoy the second bit? When did they say you would hear?

Tabya876 Sat 17-Nov-12 15:20:06

Hi Madasabox. Our DD loved the second part and made friends with a lovely little girl called Milly. She also completed a princess puzzle with her.

We were told very positive hings but having heard from other parents they were told exactly the same compliments smile

Our DD loved the assessment process and really wants to go to GHS. We've not even thought about any other Guildford options. We'll see. I think decisions will be revealed this week.

Madasabox Sun 18-Nov-12 07:45:03

Ooh that worries me now as my husband thinks they didnt say anything about my child. If you dont get into GHS Tabya will you go for one of the Farnham schools?

Tabya876 Sat 24-Nov-12 13:54:43

Madasabox. I really would not ready anything into it. Different parents spoke to different school staff and different times. All the best.

Blueberry29 Tue 18-Nov-14 09:54:13

Just came to this thread. Well done on Farnham. Having lived in both Farnham and then Guildford and then back, my view is Farnham is much nicer. Schools about the same but Guildford has become filthy and chav ridden in recent years. High Street nice and better links to London is about it!

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